there was a public outcry—and this outcry was a testament to the effectiveness of NASA’s long-term efforts to publicize Hubble as a scientific tool of continuing importance.

Potential elements of a communications strategy for long-term programs might include more “background” efforts that develop the NASA brand. Examples could include undergraduate and graduate fellowships, K-12 education programs, and so on, that are focused on building a workforce that is conscious of the NASA mission. Ultimately, however, the problem that NASA has in communicating its vision is less about the method of communication and more about the lack of a consistent message itself.


Throughout its storied history, NASA has often assumed—not always deliberately—a flagship role for the United States, demonstrating U.S. technological, scientific, and innovative capabilities in space and aeronautics on the world stage. As discussed throughout this report, NASA is now an agency at a transitional point. The agency faces challenges in nearly all of its primary endeavors—human spaceflight, Earth and space science, and aeronautics—and these challenges largely stem from a lack of consensus on the scope of NASA’s broad missions for the nation’s future. While human spaceflight has been the most visible of NASA’s accomplishments over many decades, there is no consensus on the next destination for humans beyond LEO, and thus on the required technological developments for launch systems, spacecraft, and related technologies. Beyond human spaceflight and operations, robotic space exploration, Earth and space science, and aeronautics all contribute in important ways to the nation’s science and technology advancement, but the available funding for support of all of these mission areas will likely be inadequate for the foreseeable future. The committee finds that a clear consensus for the agency’s broad mission and a carefully crafted, ambitious, yet technically realistic set of strategic priorities will be essential for NASA to remain the engine of discovery of which the United States will continue to be justifiably proud.


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NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). 2011. 2011 NASA Strategic Plan. NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. Available at

NASA. 2012a. NASA Aeronautics: Overview for Committee on NASA’s Strategic Direction. Presentation to the National Research Council Committee on NASA’s Strategic Direction by Jaiwon Shin, NASA Associate Administrator for Aeronautics, June 27, Washington, D.C.

NASA. 2012b. Space Technology Roadmaps: The Future Brought to You by NASA. Available at

NRC (National Research Council). 2004. The Evaluation of the National Aerospace Initiative. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

NRC. 2009. America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

NRC. 2010. Controlling Cost Growth of NASA Earth and Space Science Missions. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

NRC. 2011a. Sharing the Adventure with the Public: The Value and Excitement of 'Grand Questions' of Space Science and Exploration: Summary of a Workshop. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

NRC. 2011b. Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

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